Date of Award

Spring 2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Political Science & Geography


Graduate Program in International Studies

Committee Director

Austin Jersild

Committee Member

Peter Schulman

Committee Member

Angelica Huizar


Scholars and politicians today fear that international student enrollment at U.S. institutions of higher education may be declining. While some attribute potential enrollment decline to domestic politics, others believe that globalization may be allowing student flows to diversify across many nations, thus limiting the U.S.’s share of students and soft-power influence. To assess the extent to which U.S. hegemony in cross-cultural higher education is being challenged, I trace the origins of educational exchange at Western colleges and universities from their earliest incarnations in the Medieval Era to the present. I also draw a parallel between the Bush administration after 9/11, when visa policies became increasingly regulated and limitations for individuals from Muslim countries were put in place, to the current administration under Trump, where similar proposals to alter existing visa legislation, as well as travel restrictions for individuals from several Middle Eastern countries have emerged.

By conducting a small-scale case study of a public research university, Old Dominion University, I find that although some individuals feel threatened and alarmed by the current political environment, the majority of international students have not been deterred from earning their degrees in the United States. However, international students are becoming increasingly aware of alternative programs and work opportunities in rival countries, like Canada, the U.K., Australia and Germany. If the political environment of the U.S. does not soon improve, I conclude that greater numbers of international students will chose to study, work and live elsewhere. U.S. preponderance in cross-cultural higher education is being challenged by both internal and external factors, and without serious attention to either, detrimental decline over the next few years is a distinct possibility.


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